Five UNK Alumni to Receive Awards at the 29th Annual UNK Homecoming Alumni Banquet Friday, Oct. 16

Michelle Widger
UNK Alumni Association, 308.865.8474

UNK- Five University of Nebraska at Kearney alumni will be recognized at the 29th annual Homecoming Awards Banquet
on Friday, Oct. 16.

Recipients of Distinguished Alumni Awards will include: Thomas Buecker of Crawford, ’73; LaVern Franzen of Hastings, ’67, MA’73, Ed.D. ’95; Ron Larsen of Kearney, ’66; and Teresa Kowalski Porter of Denver, Colo., ’80. John Clinch of Grand Island, ’62, will receive the Jim Rundstrom Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

The five will be honored at the Homecoming Awards Banquet on Friday, Oct. 16. Tickets are $25 and are available by contacting the UNK Alumni Office at 308-865-8474 or

In addition to the banquet, alumni will take part in weekend homecoming activities. On Saturday, events begin at 10 a.m. with the Homecoming Parade down Central Avenue to the campus. A Loper Luncheon and pre-game cookout will take place at the UNK Alumni House beginning at 11:30 a.m.;  tickets are $5. The UNK football game against  Western New Mexico will take place at 1 p.m. at Cope Stadium. A post-game alumni reception is set for 4 p.m. at The Chicken Coop.

Tom Buecker of Crawford is curator of the Fort Robinson Museum and a renowned historian. He is the author of four books on western and frontier military topics. His “Fort Robinson and the American West, 1874-1899” and “Fort Robinson and the American Century, 1900-1948” are the first full-length history books about Fort Robinson. The first book details the establishment of the fort, military activities, death of Crazy House and the Cheyenne Outbreak of 1878-79. The second is a continuation of the fort detailing the last years as a cavalry post, quartermaster remount period, WWII war dog training, German prisoners of war, USDA beef research and the beginnings of Fort Robinson State Park. He was co-author of The Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger.

Buecker’s “Water-Powered Flour Mills in Nebraska” is a comprehensive study of the use of Nebraska waterways to power flour milling, once a vital industry in the state. Buecker is active as a participant and speaker in historical societies. His contributions have been recognized with a number of regional awards.

Dr. LaVern Franzen of Hastings is a professional educator who had a 41-year career at Central Community College. He began as an accounting instructor in 1967 and retired as president in 2006.

During his career he also served as dean of instruction of the Grand Island campus from 1987 to 1996, and vice president of Central Community College /president of the Hastings campus from 1996 to 2002, before being named college president in 2002. Dr. Franzen has been held many positions with several professional affiliations which include president of the Nebraska Association for Retarded Citizens, president of the Nebraska Vocational Association, board chair of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, president of the Hastings Economic Development Corporation, board chair of the Mary Lanning Hospital Foundation and member of the Nebraska Workforce Investment Board for six years.

Dr. Franzen has received the Nebraska Department of Education Elaine Stuhr Leadership and Advocacy Award, the Nebraska Community College System Chief Executive Officer’s Award, Phi Theta Kappa Lifetime Achievement Award and Adult & Continuing Education Association of Nebraska Outstanding Adult Educator Award.

Ron Larsen of Kearney was long-time co-owner of Bob’s Super Store who has been deeply involved in community activities. After college, Larsen was a math teacher in Ralston and Holdrege before returning to Kearney in 1971.

He served 16 years on the Kearney City Council and was Kearney mayor for four years. He was a board member of the Nebraska League of Municipalities for eight years, chair of the Buffalo County Economic Development for 12 years, board member of Good Samaritan Hospital for nine years, board member for The Great Platte River Archway, advisory board member of Wells Fargo Bank for 15 years, a board member of YMCA and the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce.

Larsen was capital campaign chair of the Kearney YMCA and helped raise $2.5 million for expansion. He was capital campaign co-chair for the Nebraska Firefighters Museum in Kearney and helped raise $1.5 million for that project. Larsen was one of two founding members of the Kearney Softball Association and served as president for 16 years. Currently, he is a member of Kearney Sertoma Club and has served in all of the officers positions. In 2005, Larsen was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate of Kearney High School by the Kearney Public Schools Foundation. He currently serves on Nebraska Public Power Board for District 3.

Teresa Kowalski Porter of Denver is president/CEO/owner of ISYS Technologies. She has an extensive sales and management background in the technology industry spanning 29 years. She began her career in accounting and finance, moved into sales and marketing, and eventually into the role of building, managing and growing technology-based organizations. ISYS Technologies is an engineering and information technology services company providing services to the federal government and public sector. ISYS specializes in supporting the efforts of the Department of Defense and Homeland Security.

In 2009, ISYS was selected as one of the outstanding small business companies in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Region VIII. Recently, ISYS received the Administrator’s Award of Excellence Certificate, which acknowledges ISYS’ nomination as the Small Business Contractor of the Year.

Before joining ISYS Technologies, Porter was vice president of operations at Softec Solutions, director of branch operations for Compuware Corporation/DPRC, account manager at Analysts International and account manager at UNISYS Corporation. Porter serves as a mentor for the UNK Alumni Association’s Gold Torch Society. She has been involved in the Women’s Vision Foundation of Colorado where she is part of the Wise Women Council.

John Clinch of Grand Island has played key roles the development of the UNK Alumni Association and the NU Foundation. While serving on the UNK Alumni Association board of directors, he worked on such projects as securing the Alumni House and expanding its size for greater use. As president of the association, Clinch played a key role in creating the position for the first full-time alumni director in 1987. Clinch also served as president of the Kearney State College Foundation. It was during his term as president that the foundation merged with the University of Nebraska Foundation in 1992. After that merger, Clinch served on the board of directors of the foundation until 1998.  For that service, and the service to KSC Alumni Association, he received the Founders Award in 1993. Clinch and his wife Barbara continue to serve as trustees of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Clinch is also active in the Grand Island community. He is a past board member of St. Francis Medical Center and past president of the St. Francis Medical Center Foundation, past president of Grand Island Rotary Club, former church board president, founding member of the Grand Island Athletic Booster Club and past state board member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Clinch, who owns Clinch Financial with his wife Barbara, has been active in regional, state and national financial services boards. He is a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table and currently serves as the president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, Lincoln Chapter.